TopUp Mama is Building Africa’s Largest Technology-driven Restaurant Franchise

TopUp Mama is Building Africa’s Largest Technology-driven Restaurant Franchise
July 25, 2022 Yemisi

Small and medium-sized restaurants feed half of the African population daily, yet there are minimal solutions designed to solve their persistent inventory and financing challenges. For restaurants, their supply chain starts from the farm produce they need to whip up meals, the transportation costs they have to pay to get them to the point of service, and the storage of these raw materials to keep them fresh for use. Many small and medium-scale restaurants lack the facilities to scale their supply chain management. Buying in bulk helps to optimise sales, and these restaurants can’t afford to do that. 

The concept of chain restaurants and franchising moves a step forward from supply chain collaboration. Less than 0.5% of restaurants in Africa belong to a chain or franchise, compared to 54% in the United States. This is a problem because these independent restaurants are losing out on all the benefits they stand to gain from belonging to a recognised chain network. 

Franchises have a lower failure rate than independent businesses, and they are at lower risk because they gain the benefits of brand recognition, increased buying power, a unified standard of inventory, a built-in customer base and access to business assistance from the franchisor, which often includes access to financing.

TopUp Mama is solving this problem by building Africa’s largest technology-driven restaurant franchise. By building a shared supply chain, business model and brand for African restaurants, the company is pursuing its mission of increasing restaurant contribution to GDP.


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The Future: TopUpMama

TopUp Mama gives restaurant owners a streamlined supply chain by leveraging its scale, access to credit which enables restaurants to purchase inventory and unites them under a single franchise brand to increase growth and profitability.

The company started by building a robust supply chain and helping 3500 restaurant owners in Nairobi and Lagos procure over $2.3 million worth of restaurant supplies, everything from meat and fish to delivery packaging and cleaning supplies. Since the company’s launch, they have completed over 13,000 orders, serving more than 3000 restaurants. The startup sources supply from distributors and farmers and uses its fleet of vehicles to deliver them to vendors and other end-of-chain users.

To solve the problem that small and informal restaurant owners face regarding access to finance to buy in bulk, TopUp Mama uses restaurants’ transaction data to provide Buy Now, Pay Later Services. This way, restaurants can pay for their products later while enjoying the benefits and discounts that come with buying at scale.

In Q4 2021, TopUp Mama launched a restaurant franchise called Hungry Mama that unites restaurants to a single brand, supply chain and platform. The vision is to leverage its robust supply chain and technology to build a low-cost restaurant franchise and leverage that to transform small restaurants in Africa into touchpoints for other digital services for the African population that patronises them daily.

TopUp Mama’s franchising model is targeted at smaller restaurants and outlets to give them an edge when it comes to digital uniformity, delivery and data. In addition to the meals usually provided by the restaurant, the franchise will focus on standardising four meals on the restaurant’s menu, that will be of the same quality outlet-wide.

The Team

With experience in logistics, business strategy and launching startups in Africa, the team is uniquely suited to build TopUpMama and execute the company’s strategy.

Njavwa Mutambo, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer – Njavwa was exposed to the restaurant industry as a kid. His mother, Matilda Kafusha, started and ran a small restaurant in his home town of Lusaka, Zambia for over 30 years. This exposure helped him start Musanga, first as a food delivery application before he left to join LoriSystems and then found TopUp Mama. 

Emilie Blauwhoff, Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer – A year after graduating from her master’s program at the London School of Economics, Emilie became an innovation consultant for the Amsterdam-based firm SparkOptimus. The inspiration for TopUp Mama was the years spent consulting for global beer manufacturer, Heineken, helping them scope, deploy and scale new business units to digitise their Route-to-Market strategy for small and medium restaurants, bars and shops in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa. She then moved to Nairobi, Kenya she worked as a project manager setting up ventures providing credit to farmers and healthcare use before joining forces with Njavwa and Andrew to build TopUp Mama.

Andrew Kibe, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer An engineer at heart, Andrew spent over 18 years building tools across Africa. Most notably, he was the CTO of 4G Capital, a pioneer of digital lending in East Africa. His experience inspired him to build an eCommerce wholesale marketplace for retailers called =Dukani.Co before ultimately joining forces with Njavwa and Emilie.

At Future Africa, we are excited to be a part of TopUp Mama’s journey to build the future of restaurant franchise. We welcome TopUp Mama’s team to the Future Africa community.

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